Healthcare Worker Mental Health in COVID-19
How COVID-19 Has Affected the Mental Health of Healthcare Workers
- "The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecendented impact on health systems in most countries, and in particular, on the mental health and well-being of health workers on the frontline of pandemic response efforts."
- Feelings of grief, hopelessness, isolation, distress, and burnout are common during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Some contributing factors for healthcare workers developing mental health concerns during COVID-19 include
- Chronic uncertainty and stress; frequent shifts in schedules and routines; social stigma and isolation; losing patients and loved ones; lack of PPE; compromising quality and safety of care; breaching of protocols and guidelines; increased risk of becoming infected and fear of transmitting virus to loved ones; lack of resources
- The WHO has issued an urgent call for tailored and culturally sensitive mental health interventions for frontline healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic
What Research Says
- Healthcare workers on the frontline who are directly working in the diagnosis, treatment, and care of COVID-19 patients are at-risk for developing psychiatric distress and other mental health symptoms
- The most common psychiatric disorders diagnosed in frontline healthcare workers during epidemics include PTSD, anxiety, and depression
- Sleeping disorders, insomnia, moral injury, and burnout are also common
- One study indicated that 43% of frontline healthcare workers experience somatic symptoms i.e. headaches, chest pain, and lethargy, linked to stress
- According to one study, "Most (62%) frontline health care workers say that worry and stress related to the pandemic has negatively affected their mental health, the survey of all frontline health care workers shows. At least 4 in 10 frontline health care workers say that the pandemic has negatively impacted their physical health (49%), and their relationships with family members (42%) and coworkers (41%). Sizeable shares report experiencing sleep-related problems (47%), frequent headaches or stomachaches (31%), and increased alcohol or drug use (16%) that they attribute to pandemic-related worry and stress. More than half (56%) report experiencing at least one of these three issues."
- A recent systemic review and meta analysis across 65 studies, including 97,333 health care workers in 21 countries has identified a high prevalence of moderate depression (21.7%) anxiety (22.1%) and PTSD (21.5%) among health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What this means for YOU as a Healthcare Worker
- If your mental health (and potentially physical health) has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, you are not alone
- This is a normal response to an abnormal situation/public health crisis
- You likely know others at your place of employment who are experiencing similar mental health concerns
- If work is starting to take a toll, and impacting different areas of your life, find out what might be helpful for you (see below!)
- Many different interventions can be available and helpful for you, depending on your individualized needs
- Whether by learning about coping skills on your own, to getting support from supervisors or colleagues, or speaking with a mental health professional, there are things that can help you navigate the COVID-19 pandemic - both professionally and personally!
Advocating for the Mental Health of Healthcare Workers
Flowchart: Assess Your Needs as a Healthcare Worker
This flowchart will allow you to identify the most appropriate way to handle your COVID-19 related mental health concerns, based on your self-identified level of need
Loosely based on the COVID-19 Four-Tier Interventional Model from the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior and HR at Sidney Kimmel Medical College
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- Liberati, E., Richards, N., Willars, J. et al. A qualitative study of experiences of NHS mental healthcare workers during the Covid-19 pandemic. BMC Psychiatry 21, 250 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-021-03261-8
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- Paloski, C. Post Survey Reveals the Serious Mental Health Challenges Facing Frontline Health Care Workers a Year into the COVID-19 Pandemic. KFF. 2021. https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/press-release/kff-post-survey-rev... Accessed November 2, 2021.
- Li Y, Scherer N, Felix L, et al. Prevalence of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder in health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2021;16(3):e0246454. [PMID:33690641]
- O’Hayer C, Nobleza D, Inch S, et al. Behavioral health for the front line: Lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic. NEJM Catalyst Innovations in Care Delivery. 2021; 2(7): http://doi.org/10.1056/CAT.21.0109